Saturday, October 17, 2009

Whatever happened to freedom of speech?

I’m not a U.S. Constitution historian, so forgive me if I don’t know why freedom of speech was apparently an “afterthought” and became the first of the amendments rather than to be integrated into the main document.

Nonetheless, freedom of speech is a fundamental thread in the fabric of our democracy. We innately understand it and don’t think twice about exercising it. We criticize our governments—local, regional, state and federal—without fear of retribution.

We began eight years of high decibel criticism the day the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Florida Supreme Court’s decision on how to handle the 2000 presidential election recount. That opened the door for Katherine Harris, Florida’s secretary of state, to declare the winner, which started claims of a stolen election and an illegitimate president.

I have been publicly critical of certain of Bush's positions as well, such as his personal vendetta against Saddam Hussein which, I believe, drove his decision to invade Iraq, and his laissez faire approach to immigration control.

Remind me if I’m wrong, but I don’t recall the George Bush White House enlisting the public to report the names of people who oppose the administration’s policies via the White House website. A few days after this attack on free speech, the Obama White House found itself in a pickle. It was likely that collecting these names was illegal, but the act of destroying these public records was also against the law. What to do?

I also don’t recall the Bush White House going after an insurance company, demanding that it stop distributing its assessment of a government program via a newsletter and, furthermore, to purge anything it had posted on its website relevant to the issue.

Nor do I recall any administration since Nixon that so publicly went to war against a news outlet. Nixon nixed the New York Times over their insistence to tell the truth about the deteriorating situation in Vietnam.

I’m starting think that freedom of speech is taking on an entirely new interpretation: It’s only free if you agree.

Here are some links to interesting commentaries on this topic:

Attack on Humana

Freedom of speech under attack

Anita Dunn goes after Fox News

White House battle against free speech grows

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

1 comment:

  1. This is all part of the vast right wing conspiracy.

    ReplyDelete

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